Letting Nurses Care for Their Patients – Wherever They Are

MHA, along with the Organization of Nurse Leaders and a coalition of nursing and patient advocacy organizations, is strongly supporting a bill re-filed by Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) and Sen. Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop) that would authorize Massachusetts to join 31 other states that have adopted the national Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC allows a nurse to have one license in his or her state of residency and to practice in other states, subject to the nurse practice laws and regulations of each state.

MHA’s V.P. of Clinical Affairs Patricia Noga, RN, said of the NLC, “It’s a common sense improvement that allows nurses to have one multistate license, which will, among other benefits, help facilitate telehealth, a growing part of the healthcare sector that has the potential to reduce healthcare costs and provide convenient care for patients.”

As telehealth adoption increases, the number of nurses who will be required to hold multiple licenses will also increase. Nurses must hold licenses in the state where their patient resides. Technologies like telehealth allow nurses to assist patients after they leave the hospital, and these follow-up virtual visits can contribute to the prevention of unnecessary hospital visits.

There are 14,000 nurses currently residing in Massachusetts who hold a license in another state; joining the Nurse Licensure Compact would relieve them of the maintenance of multiple, costly licenses in each state in which they practice.

Allowing for cross-state care is important since Massachusetts’ renowned hospitals attract patients from across the country. When a patient has completed the necessary care at the bedside, they enter into a complex system of follow-up and remote care that is staffed largely by nurses. In order to continue this care as patients return home to other states, these nurses must hold multiple licenses.

The Nurse Licensure Compact also would allow for better emergency preparedness and more rapid staff response in times of disaster. Nurses from other compact states would be able to assist in Massachusetts without delay in the event of a hurricane or other widespread medical emergency – and vice versa. Responses to recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other areas have demonstrated how nurses rally to provide care when other states ask for help.

New Hampshire and Maine already are members of the NLC, and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing is working to get all 50 states on board. 

For the first time last session, the bill was given favorable reports from both the Joint Committees on Public Health and Health Care Financing. Hospitals, the nursing community, and many patient advocates are hopeful that this is the year the NLC bill is enacted in Massachusetts, and a significant barrier to a responsive, flexible healthcare system is removed.